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Painting 1:6000 scale Ships


When you first see the small size of these models, you might think “How in the world am I going to paint *these* and make them look good? Well, fear not -- it’s really not too difficult at all to turn them into miniatures you’ll be proud to display on the gaming table!


The tools and supplies are very basic -- some fine needle files (mainly one with a flat surface, others might come in handy), a hobby knife with a fine-pointed blade, glue (such as Elmer’s white glue), craft sticks, a “large” paint brush (such as a #1 or a #2) and some smaller ones (in the “10-ought” or even “20-ought” range), paint (blue, a light gray and maybe two or three darker shades of gray, tan, black, white - and maybe a few colors, which I’ll touch on in Step 10), and Future floor polish or your clear overcoat of preference.


Good lighting is important -- especially with the small size of the models!


When I started working on these ships, I purchased a “magnifying lens headset”.  It took a little getting used to, but I’ve found it to be a very sound investment.  Also, it gave me a better look at the incredible amount of detail on these fine models!  I use them at many of the steps in this process.


And an overall note -- take your time!  I’ve found that when I get in a hurry is when I tend to make more mistakes -- which ends up costing me more time than I would have spent originally if I’d just taken my time and “done it right” the first time!


1.  Remove the ships from the packaging -- but keep each ship with its packaging, to help you identify which ship is which!  While I do a wee bit of “mass production”, I try to do only one or two packs of a particular type at a time -- after a while, all those 1:6000 scale destroyers start to resemble each other, and you don’t want to get any of  them mixed up!


2.  Clean the flash, if any, off the model, using a fine file.  This is a good time to clean up the edges of the bases, too.  If you wish to remove the “tab” at the end of the bases, now is the time to do it.  I leave mine on, and use that area to add identifiers to each ship (see Steps 10 and 13, near the end of the process).


3.  Wash the ships and the bases in a solution of warm, soapy water, using dish detergent and an old toothbrush.  Before you rinse them, make sure the strainer is in the sink first -- guess how I came to this step?  Fortunately, the SEYDLITZ was retrieved from the garbage disposal... but it’s a process that is just as well not undertaken!  Under running water, rinse well, and let dry on a paper towel.


4.  Using a small dab of white glue (such as Elmer’s), glue the model to a wooden “craft stick”.  (My wife got these at a craft store; they’re also called popsicle sticks.  She and the kids use them for craft projects -- I often take the “unusable ones” and use them for my modeling purposes...)  This serves not only as a handle to hold the ship, but you can also write what ship it is you’re working on the underside of the stick.  I usually glue two ships to each stick -- one on each end -- leaving the middle of the stick available as a place to hold it.  Let the glue dry.


5.  Using either an airbrush or a large brush, paint the models a gray color.  If you’re using a brush, be sure that you’re not trapping air bubbles “in the corners” on the ships.  Let dry thoroughly.


6.  While the ships are drying, paint the bases an appropriate blue color.  If you’re painting destroyers or other smaller ships, I recommend painting the gray first, then “edging in” with the blue.  Again, let dry thoroughly.


7.  Make a wash of very thin black paint and your choice of thinner.  I use acrylics, so my thinner is water, with just a dab of liquid dish washing detergent -- this breaks down the surface tension and allows the wash to flow more smoothly.  Paint the ships and the bases with this wash.  Go lightly -- this will darken all of the colors, but will really “pop out” the details!  Let dry thoroughly.


8.  Now it’s time for “detail painting”.  There is a saying that if you can see it, you can paint it.  This is often easier said than done, but I generally have found it to be true.  As with many other “areas” of modeling, it is easier to paint “from the inside out” and to paint darker colors over lighter ones.  (This step is where the good lighting and the magnifying lenses *really* come into play!


I highly recommend painting the very tops of the funnels black.  In my opinion, this does more to improve their looks than any other step I’ve done.  If desired, paint the decks an appropriate tan or gray color.  My general “rule of thumb” is WW I ships get tan decks, WW II get darker gray decks, and only on ships of cruiser and larger sizes.  You can go as you please here...  If you have access to information on what decks should be what color during which time period, then feel free to use them.


I’ve yet to try any camouflage schemes -- I would suppose only the “most basic” schemes would be viable -- but then again...  I guess it’s up to the skill level (and patience!) of the painter.  This is also where you would paint carrier flight decks -- and if REALLY ambitious, apply striping.  I’ve seen pictures -- done well, they’re awesome!  But I’ve yet to tackle that one... up to now, I’ve mainly done WW I ships and a few WW II ones.


9.  Using white paint, drybrush the bow waves and the wakes on the bases.  This is much easier to do on the ships with the bases cast separately!  Go easy here -- it’s much easier to go back and add more “whitecaps” later than it is to remove them if you got them too prominent.


10.  If you’ve left the tabs on the bases, now is the time to paint them.  I color-code my ships by nation -- red for British, black for German, blue for American, orange for Japanese, etc.  This makes it easier to identify the models “in the heat of battle”...


11.  When your satisfied with Steps 8 through 10, it’s time to “assemble” the models.  Using a thin, sharp knife (like an X-acto with a #11 blade), “pop” the model off of its craft stick.  Lightly sand the base of the ship to remove any glue residue.  Then glue the ship to the base.  Some recommend using a “super glue”, but once again, I prefer Elmer’s white glue.  It dries clear, so if you “smudge” any onto the base, it “disappears” as it dries.  And -- if you make a mistake and glue the ship onto it’s base backwards, it’s much easier to remove it and glue it facing the proper direction.  (Guess how I found THIS one out?  It was actually kind of funny, you know -- seeing the CANOPUS sailing backwards at flank speed!)  And I’ve yet to have a ship become accidentally separated from its base -- so I guess that Elmer’s works well enough for me!


12.  After the glue dries, place the completed model on a paper towel.  Then, give them a coat of Future floor polish.  This is a acrylic floor finish, which has proven to be very durable under normal handling.  It dries to a glossy sheen, which looks fine to me.  If you don’t want a glossy finish, I suggest an airbrushing with a matte-finish overcoat, such as Testor’s Dullcote.  Make sure your overcoat is compatible with the paints you’ve used up to now -- I would be very hesitant to apply Dullcote (a lacquer) over my Polly S and Model Masters (acrylics).  It CAN be done, if you use very light coats and let each coat dry thoroughly before applying the next coat -- but I don’t like to do it.  Again, to each his own...


13.  I now apply the names to each ship, on the tab at the end of the ship, using decals.  I’ve had sets of white lettering, in four-point size, made.  This takes a lot of patience, placing one letter at a time -- I never do it after a hard day at work!  But I think the results are worth it.  I can usually get five letters on the larger ships, four on the mid-size (cruiser), three on the smaller ships.  Use a little “common sense” here -- obviously, PRINZREGENT LUITPOLD will not fit, but P LUIT will.  Some are obvious, such as KG V or KONIG; others may take a little more effort.  Destroyers are another matter... use whatever system works for you.  When done, each ship has its name, in white, over the “appropriate color” background, at the end of the ship.  Makes identification on the gaming table much easier!  (You don’t have to pick up the ship to see which one it is -- then put it back *exactly* where it was when you picked it up!)


I suppose this step could also be done with labels you could make on your computer, cut out, and glue on.  I may try this at some point -- after all, decaling each name in 4-point type does take quite a bit of time!  But I haven’t tried it yet...


14.  After the decaling, apply a final coat of Future.  You now have two clear coats over the model, which will also help to affix the ship to the base if you used Elmer’s glue back in Step 11.


15.  I also apply the ship names to the underside of each base.  I use a label maker to make them; you could also print them up on your computer and glue them to the bottom, etc.


16.  Now, step back -- not too far, though! -- and admire your work!